A mother and her two teenage sons have been named as being among the victims of an explosion in Leicester, with no survivors believed to be left in the wreckage.
The remains of five people have been recovered from the site of the building on Hinckley Road, which was demolished in a huge blast on Sunday night, Leicestershire Police said.
While no-one else is believed to be trapped in the rubble, emergency services “cannot rule out the possibility” that other people were in the premises at the time and were continuing to search for further remains.
Painstaking work conducted over 36 hours at the scene of an explosion in Leicester have this lunchtime (Tuesday 27 February) concluded that there are no survivors in the wreckage. More information on the Force website: https://t.co/ADLd0vbFzY pic.twitter.com/BizwnSY5sY— Leicestershire Police (@leicspolice) February 27, 2018
Leicestershire Police earlier said Mary Rajoobeer, 46, and her sons Shane, 18, and 17-year-old Sean, were still officially “missing”, as formal identifications have yet to take place.
The family lived in a flat above a store, which was destroyed in the explosion.
Leah Beth Reek, 18, who was Shane’s girlfriend, is also listed among the missing, as is 22-year-old Viktorija Ljevleva, who is thought to have been working in the supermarket at the time of the explosion.
Matt Cane, of Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We cannot rule out the possibility of other people having been in the premises at the time of the explosion and whom we have yet to locate.
“While we have no intelligence to suggest this is the case, we cannot rule out that possibility until the search is over.”
Leicestershire Police Superintendent Shane O’Neill said the operation had now moved into the “recovery” phase.
He added: “Tragically, all we are now looking for is any further human remains.
“This is vital work that is being done, on behalf of the victims and their families, and it will take some time to complete.
“People lost their lives on Sunday in the most horrific way. We need to understand why the building exploded.
“But identifying the bodies we have recovered from the wreckage, and understand the cause of the incident, is not an easy task, and I would continue to ask for the support and patience of local people as we carry out this serious and necessary work.”
Leicestershire Police said it may be a “considerable time” before the recovered bodies were formally identified, due to the devastation wreaked by the blast and subsequent fire.
One of five other injured people taken to hospital following the blast also remained in a critical condition with life-threatening injuries, the force added.
Specialist equipment and dogs were used to establish nobody else was alive in the property, Mr O’Neill said.
He added: “I still appeal, if anyone is concerned about someone who is missing or who hasn’t come back who may have been at the supermarket or at that premises, please contact us at Leicestershire Police.”
An investigation into the cause is continuing.
The emergency services have warned that ongoing work and the weather conditions, with heavy snow forecast for later, meant the A47 road would remain closed in both directions for some time yet.
Witness Ady Wells, a 23-year-old event manager, was driving home with his girlfriend Ruby-May Dexter when the explosion happened.
Mr Wells said: “I lost control of the wheel because the explosion was so strong, but I was able to swerve left and park up on the side road.
“There was dense black smoke everywhere for about two to three minutes. It’s only after that lifted that the fire actually started.
“I ran over and picked up a plank from the rubble and saw a man lying there beneath it. It was very traumatic.”
Tony Hartley, who lives around 50 yards away from the blast site, said: “I was standing in the kitchen and heard a bang so I ran up the road and could see glass everywhere.
“Me and a friend lifted up a steel girder with about five other blokes and removed a bloke from underneath it.
“We then turned round, saw rubble and heard a little boy crying. There was me and another bloke sifting through the rubble and we managed to pull the boy out.”
Mr Hartley said the boy, thought to be aged between 10 and 13, was able to walk after being freed.